Monthly Archives: May 2010

Only as good as your last job

I wonder sometimes if some people, or their line of work, are indeed damage proof. This week, the JJ Abrams penned TV series LOST just finished its six year run with a truly baffling finale. Sven Goran Erickson is managing the Ivory Coast at this summer’s 2010 World Cup despite poor recent return from in his England and Mexico roles. And Adam Crozier has started his tenure at ITV after controversial stints in charge of The FA and The Post Office.

Three guys, seemingly worlds apart, are to me linked by at least one recognisable trait. The ability to continually create for themselves significant career opportunities despite disappointing in previous roles.

Allow me to elaborate. JJ Abrams came to prominence as the creator of a TV spy series called Alias. After 5 long seaons, it adopted a bizarre season ending storyline around a medieval inventor who created an apocolyptic device and spread the pieces to the corners of the earth. A race against time between good and evil ensued. He then created Lost which started out as a desert island plane crash, quickly turned sci-fi then time travel and in its conclusion, was maybe just one character’s dream. I’m still undecided – which is the problem. In between there was the film Cloverfied, a Godzilla meets Blair Witch experiment set in New York and filmed on handy cams. All great ideas that sucked the public in, but in the final analysis ultimately failed to live up to billing. But what happens? He gets the Star Trek reboot and other projects in the offing, despite leaving scores of fans continually frustrated.

Sven. Tremendous club manager in his native Sweden and Italy. Took the England football job and with the best group of players in a generation failed to get beyond the quarter finals. Tactially inept and never able to drop underperforming stars, this didn’t stop him picking up subsequent high profile and high salary jobs with Manchester City, Mexico (with little overall success) and now the Ivory Coast in a World Cup year.

Crozier. Did little to improve grassroots football in the UK during his time at The FA, failed to modernise The Post Office or make it more effective and efficient, he now has the opportunity to spearhead the revival of the country’s second largest TV station with established shows and talent like Ant n Dec and Simon Cowell locked in.

I might be harsh but it seems to me that short term box office seems to win out over long term secure revenue generation. In business, stakeholders of all kinds need to be satisfied and taking the ‘box office’ approach could be the quickest road to ruin. Customers expect more and can afford to be more selective.

So it seems odd to me that there appears to be, in some ares of business, an ignorance of the theory that you are only as good as your last job.


It’s the thought that counts

Well targeted professional and personal communication has died a death thanks to the rise of the digital age.

Sure, on one hand, the Internet provides powerful scope, scale, immediacy and the ability to broadcast to thousands of people.

But sometimes in being too quick to embrace technology we’re missing out on generating the simple pleasures and that means we’re probably not engaging as well as we could be.

Receiving a greeting card or letter in the mail remains one of the most powerful forms of communication available, but businesses remain immune or incapable of learning and applying this to their contact stratgies.

You have key customers, top clients and important partners. But do you know when their birthday is? Their wedding anniversary? Their job anniversary? Their children’s birthdays? Their favourite sport and sports team?

Building truly unique everyday communications around things that are important to them will elevate you from supplier to partner status and develop a long term and profitable business relationship.

People do business with people and there has to be chemistry for it to work. Be the one who has the thought that counts.

You have competition

I’ve met and read about a clutch of companies recently that claim to have no out and out competition. A risky proposition in a globally focused, increasingly service economy.

One example is container security. A multi billion dollar business. Some companies provide locks and security, some providing tracking and tracing. One company claims to be the only one doing both. That doesn’t mean there is no competition – far from it, there is an abundance as all the players in security or tracking have a share of the pie.

The problem is magnified when products are commoditised by professional buyers.

We’ve seen how the fallout of the ash cloud has negatively affected airlines but delivered massive revenue for ferries, trains and hire car companies. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to plan for, but companies and tourist boards in the UK will now all be putting extra effort into promoting their offering to a larger number of people now likely to stay in the UK this summer.

This topical example demonstrates the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to considering your competition – and factoring threats into your business planning.

Thinking outside the box is not the easiest thing to do. We all get tunnel vision but it is critical to keep an eye on what is going on in the market.

Today’s challenge: Set yourself fifteen minutes today to research broader competition using Google. Whether you are in packaging, adhesives, chemicals, tourism, publishing or insurance, there are other companies doing things differently and succeeding. Having them on your radar enables you to have a plan to tackle them.

Is branding all that matters?

I watched the first instalment of Jo Malone’s High Street Dreams on BBC1 where the retail entrepreneur mentored two food businesses and gave them the opportunity to pitch to major supermarket purchasing teams.

I had been looking forward to it but came away a little disappointed as the entire focus of the project in both cases was to get the brand and packaging right. Sure this is absolutely critical but when you’re starting out, as both were, the key thing is surely to drum up interest and some sales to convince anyone to take a chance.

Check it out on BBC iPlayer and let me know what you think. This link won’t last for long.

When developing a product, there has to be a need (a ready made market) or a strong perceived need for it, and there have to be some very clear benefits for why it will sell.

I just felt the programme glossed over some of the more important elements to creating momentum around a brand, and indeed the cultural and organizational aspects of moving a business from your own kitchen to supplying a high street operation like Waitrose or Asda.

And just to square the cirle, I went looking for Muddy Boots burgers in Waitrose on Saturday, but there was no sign, and I’m assuming that the programme was made some time ago. A massive promotional opportunity missed there by everyone involved.

It brings the topic of brand into sharper focus. GyroHSR, an international B2B agency, recently staged a well publicised event with the question of whether ”Brand or Demand’ is the objective of marketing at its heart. I think brand is important, but it is definately not all that matters.

Scoring a World Cup own goal

The Fifa World Cup kicking off on 11 June in South Africa offers incredible promotional opportunities to brands of all shapes and sizes. In doing so, it brings out the very best and very worst in marketers.

The advertising is kicking in and the level of World Cup / football related email is increasing in volume. But recent research by atmAd suggests that a significant group of consumers within the target demographic will only respond to campaigns from main sponsors. These valuable consumers, will they say, fundamentally mistrust guerilla attempts from other brand marketers.

Why? It’s to do with relationship and permission. The 13 main tournament sponsors pay millions for exclusive access to the tournament and the ability to promote their wares as an official sponsor. In some cases these relationships have been built by brands like Coca Cola and Mastercard over the last 3-4 tournaments and a 16 year period.

Some brands like Nationwide and Pepsi claim a justifiable indirect relationship through their tie-ups with related and aligned parties such as being official suppliers to the England team or The FA or by running campaigns involving particular footballing personalities.

What is obvious is the World Cup is a clear consumption occasion opportunity. Snack, food and beverage, barbeque, televisions and furniture brands will all position around watching the match as a social occasion.

But how does this translate to b2b? I’m not convinced it does. Even the most creative business marketers will be hard pressed to justify exploitation of the event – but it won’t stop them trying.

But be warned. Official and indirect sponsors take a dim view of attempts to sabotage their official relationships. And they, and Fifa, could come down hard legally on businesses that try to do so. Critically from a marketing perspective, a lazy campaign leave customers and prospects feeling you’re a lazy company.

Taking advantage of the World Cup in your marketing is a high risk strategy. Before cashing in on a tenuous association, consider how that one email, mailer or advert could damage your reputation and the years of investment you have already made.

Marketing Metrics 4: Achieving ROI from direct marketing – it’s in the design and delivery

Direct marketing, when well designed, expertly written, highly targeted, clear in proposition and well implemented can engage customers and transform the sales and marketing success of a business.

Too often though it is done badly. Direct mail, as most recipients view DM, is the bane of most people’s lives, and the very worst, intrusive antidote to good honest permission marketing. And email has taken this on immeasurably.

Direct marketing can and is implemented well. I receive mailers from TM Lewin about specials on shirts (incidentally they have a nifty YouTube channel) and Amazon’s ‘Recommendations’ emails based on my transactional and browsing behaviour. I’m on the Volkswagon mailing list because I bought a Polo five years ago – the last mailer was a beautiful piece in the style of a VW dashboard. And other businesses are using DM techniques to personally encourage browsers to take their abandoned baskets to checkout status, with some success.

What is clear to me as I consider this blog series on metrics in the core elements of the marketing mix, is the requirement to target a segment, understand an unmet need and deliver a compelling (and for you, profitable) proposition that entices and engages them to act.

Achieving ROI from direct marketing really is in the design and delivery. Sure, the usual rules apply in terms of activating specific landing pages, phone numbers, email addresses, voucher codes, limited time offers and social media pages to monitor response. But getting response is the objective. Here’s how to transform ‘junk mail into conversion mail’.

  1. Take time to target
  2. Think about your audience and get tone of voice right
  3. Highlight the ‘call to action immediately’ and prominently – you have 3-5 seconds, even assuming the recipient is remotely interested
  4. Don’t clutter your communication – stick to one single message
  5. Have an equal balance between design and copy
  6. Make the most of the senses if relevant – smell, touch, taste
  7. Dont’s trick recipients into opening your mail – this will only damage your reputation and your brand in the long term.
  8. Make sure you test and learn – make subtle changes in campaign creative or message and gauge response.


Learning from Unilever’s creativity in numbers

A recent article in the UK’s Marketing magazine (28 April 2010) reported on how Unilever is experimenting on a global level with crowd sourced creative after successfully trialing smaller campaigns in 2009 with Peperami and Lipton Tea.

The brief which is available from partner MOFILMs website is asking for content based on 13 of its most famous global brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Dove deodorant (Real Women campaign pictured), Knorr, Sure, Sunsilk and Vaseline.

At first glance, it seems preposterous that one of the world’s largest advertisers should commit to paying out a modest £70,000 in receipt for a raft of creative ideas whilst risking significant brand damage and upsetting its roster of global brand partners.

There are undoubted economic and creative opportunities for Unilever as a client in running such a scheme.

For one, it heralds a shift in the subsidization of fat cat agencies, their bloated structures and network models. Rather than paying for 24:7 access and the staffing of agency offices across the globe that arguably spend more time biccuring internally over Unilever P&L, Unilever are paying solely for ideas generation within the crowd sourced model.

Secondly, there is an empowering injection of work into the global creative industry at a more micro level. It affords creatives previously shut out with an opportunity to work with Unilever brands. This alone should stimulate some fascinating creative content.

Thirdly, in a recessionary economy, Unilever’s decision to review their marketing spend and in some respects ‘work smarter’ is natural and is likely to have a positive effect on margins. In time could it perhaps even equate to lower consumer prices at the till?

Critics argue that these schemes don’t take into account strategic planning or implementation, areas which do clearly require further consideration. Perhaps though, that is and should always be the remit of the in-house marketer? What we can be assured of is crowd sourced content is here to stay.

What can we take from this? That crowdsourcing only works when you have the brand equity to support it to start with? No, I think most brands could utilise this approach to generate some additional ideas – think about running a graduate program through your local college / university. It gives the students some valuable real life experience, and it provides you some fresh creative perspective and regional kudos!